Skeptic Coffee Break Episode 1 - Jessica Ahlquist, NCSE takes on climate change science, SOPA and more.
Episode 1 can be listened to here or downloaded via iTunes. The following are the show notes with links to further content. Thank you.
Hello and welcome to the first episode of Skeptic Coffee Break, your short form podcast designed for your coffee break or morning commute. My name’s Robert Sacerich, your host.
First, a little about me. I currently serve on the board of directors for the Greater Sacramento Humanist Association as well as Atheist Alliance International. I’ve been involved actively in the secular and skeptic communities for a few years now.
The goal of this podcast is to keep you up to date with a quick overview of current events and topics. My goal is to keep things fairly brief, as short at 5 minutes, and no longer than 15 minutes. I want this podcast to be able to be comfortably listened to on a coffee break or your morning commute. I’ll be touching on topics with a brief overview and a bit of commentary, then posting the show notes on tumblr with links and more detailed information on the topics I cover in the show. This way, you get a good taste of what’s happening and can quickly and easily access more information at your leisure.
Today, for my first episode, I have a few news items that I thought would be of interest. I’ll talk about Jessica Ahlquist, the NCSE takes on climate change science, SOPA, and more. I’ll touch on each subject and provide further information, as well as links on the show notes blog at skepticcoffeebreak.tumblr.com. Feel free to message me through that site or @skepticcoffee on twitter if you have any suggestions for show topics.
On January 11, Jessica Ahlquist, a 16 year old atheist from Rhode Island won a court case to have a prayer banner removed from her public school. The banner was titled “School Prayer” and addressed to “Our Heavenly Father.” This was a clear violation of the separation of church and state.
Since the decision, Jessica has received numerous death threats and vitriol from christians in her school and around the country. When the Freedom From Religion Foundation attempted to send her flowers, they were refused because of her atheism by most of the area florists. In the end, Glimpse of Gaia, a local florist, was more than happy to take the order. They deserve our praise for standing up.
Things have gotten so bad that even State Representative Peter Palumbo has referred to Jessica as an “evil little thing.” She’s had to have police escorts to school board meetings and even classes. This young woman has shown so many of us what it means to be brave in the face of adversity.
On January 16th, the NCSE, National Center for Science Education, announced the start of its new initiative to address climate change science education. Eugenie Scott has mentioned this initiative in interviews leading up to the launch and honestly, in America, this is sorely needed. The consensus of scientific opinion points to the existence of global warming and the effect that humans have on it The amount of denial in the country has spilled over into the schools, giving teachers problems from parents for teaching the climate change science that is part of their curriculum. Well, thank you NCSE for standing up for science education once again.
On January 18th, many popular websites shut down in protest against SOPA, including Wikipedia and Reddit. SOPA is a congressional initiative to combat internet piracy, but it goes much further than that. The legistlation allows for any suspected infringement of copyright, even from website members, to allow for the shut down of a website to investigate. This would shut down most social networks, wikipedia and many, many more sites. It looks to have been successful, as 13 more members of congress changed their votes in light of the protest and the intitiative has, at least temporarily, been shelved.
Now, a bit of skepticism education.
Here’s a red flag to be mindful of for the week.
When someone makes a scientific claim contrary to the consensus of scientific opinion and claims that any dissenting scientists are quickly silenced, this is a major red flag. It points at a conspiracy theory mentality behind the claim. Whenever claims like that are made, it requires an ever growing conspiracy to be taking place; one that cannot possibly be sustained for any length of time. Always keep an eye for these claims when evaluating things you’re told.
Well, that’s all for episode 1. I hope you’ve enjoyed the podcast and will subscribe for future episodes. As I go along, I’ll be tweaking the format to see what works and what doesn’t. Your suggestions are always welcome. Thank you, and have a great week.